The importance of family is instilled in all of us. Whether it’s the families we create or are born into, despite the challenges, arguments, ill-feelings, and miscommunications. Through all of the turmoil, family matters. This consistent espousing of family values could be the reason many people are late to leave the nest.
Economic woes, health issues, low-wage jobs, housing discrimination, and the constant redefining of societal norms could also be contributing factors. Although we don’t grow up to live with our parents forever, sometimes it can end up just that way, with multiple generations in the household. One in five Americans currently lives in a multigenerational household.
Whether it’s a choice or not, multi-generational living should be navigated with care, concern, understanding, and love if it’s to be a peaceful living situation. Let’s use this article to discuss this phenomenon in depth. We’ll also tackle why this sort of home life is so challenging and offer a few pieces of advice for those currently finding their way through multigenerational living.
What is Multigenerational Living?
Multigenerational living is when multiple generations live under one roof together. Also referred to as multi-gen or next-gen homes, this living arrangement is becoming more and more the norm versus simply a choice. A few key factors contributing to this trend are:
- People marrying later in life.
- A tougher economic climate and competitive job market.
- Varied health and wellness issues that impact a person’s ability to live independently.
The affordability and practicality of multigenerational living make it an easy decision for many to make, but others experience the challenges of this type of living more than the benefits. Although a multigenerational household can be chaotic to navigate, many enjoy the culture of a large household, the multi-layered support system it provides, as well as how wholesome the experience is to be a part of each family member’s growth. Multi-generational living also allows for family members to ensure their loved ones are well-cared for, a growing concern with one-third of nursing homes being found negligent.
For it to be true multigenerational living, there have to be at least two adult generations in the household. This could be parents and their adult children. More common is the three-generation household consisting of maybe a great aunt or uncle, mom and dad, and children. We’ve even seen four-generation homes consisting of great grandparents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren in the home.
The Challenges of Multigenerational Living
Coexisting peacefully under one roof can be quite challenging for those in a multigenerational household. The individual ages, personalities, values, futures, and expectations all contribute to the chaos that plagues many multigenerational households. Also, each generation has specific cultural, family, and personal values that influenced the economic, societal, and worldly views they experienced growing up.
We draw so much from our families, learn so much, depending on each member for even the unspoken things. So, we oftentimes look past the toxic or unhealthy dynamics expressed in a multigenerational household. For example, the inability to accept a family member’s sexual orientation or gender identification. Even being unmarried and cohabitating with your long-term partner among conservative family members is a cause for disruption in a multigenerational household.
The most noticeable challenge of multigenerational living is that privacy is almost nonexistent. Family members find it difficult to set boundaries, let alone get everyone in the household to respect those boundaries. Lack of privacy can severely inhibit a person’s ability to live a life of their own, nurture their relationship with self, and unapologetically pursue individual passions.
Advice for Surviving Multigenerational Living
Where you live can impact your mental health. So, it’s especially important to find a way to survive multigenerational living in the most peaceful, respectful, fulfilling way possible to give yourself the best chance at life after leaving the nest.
One way to make multigenerational living easier is to make your space your own and encourage family members to do the same. A functional, personality-filled room could give you the feeling of peace and happiness needed to sift through chaos. For example, children with autism often require sensory-friendly environments, so designing your living space with the right furniture and decor can create a calm environment that allows those with autism to thrive. Maybe you love pink, so coming home to an entirely pink room every night gives you the vibes necessary to continue to the next day.
Surviving multigenerational living could also be a matter of preparing to buy your own home in the future. Explore some of the most common reasons people get cold feet in the homebuying process. Jot down ways you can avoid those doubtful feelings, and this could give you some relief knowing you’ll be ready to leap when the time is right.
If it’s at all possible, explore designing a separate living area, kitchen, and entrance to the home that enables members of the family to have some sort of independence. In a multigenerational home, each generation will benefit from having their own separate space and privacy.
Overcoming the challenges of multi-generational living won’t be easy. Ease the experience by preparing yourself for the future purchase of your own home, experimenting with room designs that reflect the different personalities and needs of each family member, and designing extensions to the home that prompt independence if at all possible. While you’re there, also enjoy the benefits of having so many family members in one room because there are people out there longing for this exact dynamic.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.